Ever try breathing with a "360-Degree Breath"? We usually think about breathing in and out. But what about side-to-side and front-to-back? Try it! Place one of your hands on your side at the base your ribcage and the other hand on your belly right below the sternum. Inhale and think of breathing downwards and outwards. Did you feel your ribcage expand? Did you feel your stomach expand? Excellent! If you felt your chest rise â€" try it again. Expanding 360 Degrees allows our inhalation to be performed with the most efficient musculature. In turn, this sets up our exhalation and our singing for the broadest range of possibilities. All the way â€˜round!
When it comes to vocal style, CONSONANTS can make an even stronger statement than vowels. Do you start your words strong with a firm punch? Or with an airy and breathy tone? When you finish your words, do you perhaps hum on an M or N for a few seconds like Sarah Vaughan? Or, do you spit your consonants out with conviction like Michael Jackson? Consonants can also affect the vowels you sing. A strong consonant like G or B can make it easier to belt. An N or SH might make it easier to find a lighter place in your voice. Making deliberate choices with your Consonants will enhance your personal vocal style a hundredfold!
Let the Larynx do it's thing! Many times our bodies know what to do without us getting in the way. When we sing high notes our vocal folds usually need to do three things: 1. STRETCH 2. CONNECT 3. BALANCE breath pressure. When these three things happen, the Larynx TILTS for high notes. The Larynx knows how to do this naturally, but we tend to interfere by raising the Larynx, squeezing the vocal cords, or pushing the breath. There are few things in life better than a smart singer. However, sometimes are our brains can get in the way of the amazing things that our bodies can do naturally. So, next time you go for those high notes: Let your larynx do it's thing!
Keep your vowels HONEST! Vowels are formed and changed by the shape of your throat, mouth, tongue, and nasal cavity. Sometimes it's desirable to modify the shape of a vowel to hit specific higher notes. Usually, though, we want our vowels to stay the SAME. Nevertheless, vowels often change when we don't mean for them to! Try singing a descending scale on an "AH" vowel. When you get to the bottom, are you still singing AH? Or has it changed to UH? Next, try singing an ascending scale on an "UH" vowel. When you reach the top, is it still UH? Or has it changed to AH? These kinds of vowel shifts mean that you're cheating your resonance chambers instead of honoring the resonance of the vowel you're singing. So, listen closely and make sure your vowels stay the same as you move up and down the scale. Keep your vowels HONEST!
GRACE Notes are often what separates good Riffers from GREAT riffers. A Grace Note is a tiny passing note either just above or just below a sung pitch. It goes by so quickly that it barely counts as a note. It's quite similar to a pull-off or hammer note on a guitar. The primary note that is played or sung is very dominant. However, there's also teeny tiny "graceful" note that leads into the dominant pitch. Beginning Riffers can often achieve the primary notes of a Riff, but fail to hear or perform the Grace Notes. If you can learn to do them, though, your Pop/Rock/R&B Riffing will become more detailed. But, you'll also become the kind of Riffer that causes people to ask: "how do you DO that?!". Just tell them it's all by GRACE!
Many times singers OBSESS over which register they're using. Is it "Head Voice"? Is it "Chest"? Is it "Chest Dominant Mix"? WHAT IS IT?! Don't let fancy vocal concepts intimidate you. Vocal Registers boil down to variances in breath flow, vocal cord closure, and resonance. There are actually an INFINITE amount of register possibilities. It's indeed very helpful to use labels like "Chest" and "Mix". But, be careful that you don't obsess about these labels! Many different schools, teachers, and vocalists use different terminology. In fact, you can actually even make up your own labels: This is my "Comfy Cozy Power Register." Or, this is my "Floaty Flexible Resonating Register." If it helps you to understand your voice - use it!
Take your SINGING VITAMINS! Do you feel that, no matter how often you stretch, you're still tense? The solution could be as simple as vitamins! A deficiency in Vitamin D and Magnesium has been shown to contribute to myoskeletal tension in the body. This includes the Larynx! It can be difficult to obtain sufficient amounts of these nutrients from dietary sources alone. And sadly, unless you live along the equator, your chances of absorbing enough Vitamin D from the sun are slim. Magnesium and Vitamin D are processed more efficiently when taken together. So, consider taking a supplement of each or a multivitamin. Continue your usual strategies to reduce vocal tension, but a daily dose of these critical nutrients could be just what your body needs!
Musical Theatre has some of the most emotionally electric songs that are immensely rewarding to perform and hear! - Cue the tears and the teeth gnashing! - Those songs are wonderful for the stage with lights, costumes, orchestra, and context. However, they don't make the greatest audition songs. As fun as they are, when taken out of context they can read as unintentionally comical or simply deflated. In an audition, you don't have the time to establish the necessary imaginary world for the adjudicators to appreciate your tour de force. So save the intense, emotional songs for your bedroom, car, or â€" hopefully - the actual stage! Focus on finding sincere songs that elevate you as a performer, instead of songs that are nearly impossible to live up to under harsh audition room lights.
Drink WATER. You've heard it before â€" and with good reason. Staying hydrated helps your vocal folds maintain moistness and elasticity. This is a very good thing, especially for your high notes. Water and non-caffeinated beverages are also great for vocal recovery. After the wear and tear of a day of speaking and singing, water helps remove cellular waste, mucous, and debris. Remember, though, nothing you drink will touch your actual vocal folds (unless you choke). Steaming or the consistent use of a humidifier is the only way to get water in contact with the vocal folds. Keeping the outer surface of the vocal folds moist requires proper humidity levels. So drink up, steam up, and enjoy the benefits of happy, healthy, elastic vocal folds!
Do you struggle with a vocal WOBBLE? A "wobble" is generally a Vibrato that is either too slow or that deviates from the fundamental pitch too far. Singers of all ages can develop wobbles, but it affects the aging voice even more. Luckily, there is hope! A wobble often is the result of singing too loudly, with too much force, with too much "weight", or with an overly depressed larynx. Some solutions include practicing straight tone, experimenting with volume control exercises, and becoming skilled with a lighter and brighter tone quality. Agility exercises can also help to shed excessive wobbly weight and speed up the movement of the vocal folds. So, if things are WOBBLING for you - take heart! Some simple steps should STEADY your sound soon!
Did you originally start singing because you thought one day you'd have the perfect voice? No. You started because you LOVE singing. Did you practice today because you planned to get frustrated? No. You practiced because you CARE deeply about your voice. Did you go to that audition so that you'd hate yourself if you didn't get the part? No. You went because you thought THIS might be your next project. Did you share your gift so that you could become an idol? No. You shared your gift so that you could be a BLESSING to your listeners. Did you become a successful singer so you could obliterate the competition? No. You became successful because you LOVE singing. Just like singing has always loved YOU.
If you take an audition workshop or ask people for audition tips, you're almost guaranteed to hear contradicting advice. "Always introduce yourself" - "Never introduce yourself". "Look at the people at the table" - "Never look at the people at the table". But, one piece of advice you that always remains constant is - "Be respectful to everyone in the room". From the monitor, to the accompanist, to the casting team, to the reader. Even to the other artists you are up against. Everyone is there to do their job and be a professional. So, this is your chance to be the kind of person that everyone wants to work with. You may not do everything perfectly in your audition, but by consistently being a respectful and courteous professional, you can never go wrong!
Everyone knows that if you want to make it in the Music Industry, you've got to have CONNECTIONS! But, for most of us, that seems very discouraging. We don't have an uncle who is the President of Sony Records or a cousin who won a Grammy. Yet, we can still take heart! "Connections" are not always these obvious examples. In fact, they RARELY are. Connections will happen to you naturally if you are dedicated to your craft and respectful to everyone in the industry. Your colleagues, your teachers, the people you meet at auditions - all of them can become Connections. The stage manager, the sound person, the custodian - also Connections. You truly never know who will be the one to open a huge door for your career. Remember - Connections aren't something you HAVE, they are something you MAKE. That's why it's called "making CONNECTIONS!"
Want better Stage Presence? With your finger, point to where you are NOW. (Actually try it!) Good. Did you point down? Now, point to where you're GOING. Did you point forward? Last, point to where you've BEEN. It's behind you, right? As performers, we spend a lot of time talking about the space in front of us (aka "the 4th wall"). And that makes sense. After all, that's the way we're facing! However, where our character has been is just as important as where they're going. So, next time you practice, think of your character's past, journey, and backstory. Be specific about the people, places, feelings, and circumstances that have brought you to this place. Paint the imagery of the "2nd wall" behind you just as clearly as you paint the 4th wall in front of you. Being PRESENT onstage is knowing just how far you've come and just how far you've got to go - and finding yourself squarely in the middle.
Did you know that when you sing a note, you're actually singing MANY notes all at once? It's true! The note you sing is called the "Fundamental Frequency". It's the lowest note present in the sound. But, there are many other higher notes present that are called "Overtones". Depending on how we shape our vocal tract (jaw, tongue, soft palate, lips, and larynx) certain Overtones become boosted and others become dampened. Vocal tone and timbre is largely affected by which Overtones are brought forth. Modifying vowels and making thoughtful adjustments to your vocal tract is how to achieve a clearer, louder, or more aesthetically pleasing sound. Imagine the infinite notes you can sing without ever changing pitch!
Have you explored every nook and cranny of your voice? While it's never wise to push your voice, it's actually a great idea to occasionally explore your voice's EXTREMES. Have you found the highest possible notes in your Head Voice? What about your lowest possible note near your Vocal Fry? You also might consider volume. Experiment with your loudest and softest volumes. How about Larynx height? Have you felt the sensation of your highest and squeakiest Larynx? How about your lowest and hollowest Larynx? Knowing the extremes of your voice is one of best ways to improve your technique and artistry. Almost all of our singing is done in the middle of all these extremes. However, understanding extremes will help you to make the more nuanced adjustments that your technique needs!
It's time for your Alignment CHECKLIST! Follow these 5 Steps to great posture and alignment for your singing. FIRST - distribute your weight evenly between both feet on the floor. SECOND - lengthen your spine and your neck. THIRD - allow your shoulders to fall away from your ears. FOURTH - slightly tilt your tailbone and widen your lower back. FIFTH - inhale and expand your ribcage and low abdomen. By going through this simple and easy Checklist before you practice or perform, you will always be able to guarantee that your body is in it's optimal position. Great alignment? CHECK!
Your body is a Wonderland… of RESONANCE! Try to feel your resonance as your sing with different components of your voice. Place your hands on your chest and feel the vibrations when you sing with a strong Chest Voice. Switch registers to Head Voice and place a hand on the back of your head. You'll likely feel some vibrations there as you move to the upper part of your voice. Next, place your fingers on the front of your nose and try an M, N, or NG. You should now feel the vibrations move to the nose and the front of your face. As a singer, it's much more important to understand how your voice FEELS than how it sounds. Let US appreciate the beauty of your sound. You can just focus on your body. After all, it's a Wonderland!
Should you breathe through your mouth or through your nose when you sing? Great question! The answer is BOTH! Nose breaths are superior, but they're often too slow for quick phrases. Mouth breaths can be drying, but are capable of being taken in more quickly. So, the ideal inhalation will involve both your nose and your mouth simultaneously. We exhale through both our nose and mouth when we sing. So, it makes sense to prepare the inhale breath this way. On occasion, interludes in songs give you the time to take a nice calming breath through the nose. But, typically we don't have that kind of time. This makes the Nose + Mouth Breath the winning combo!
What is your vocal SIGNATURE? Just like signing your name, your vocal signature is unique to you. It's not just your God-given resonance and physiology. It's also the amalgamation of all your technical choices and stylistic nuances. We recognize singers by the tone of their voices, yes, but even MORE by their unique vocal signature. Sara Bareilles sings long, legato phrases interspersed with breathy qualities. Rihanna belts with sharp, clean sounds alternating with a little grit. Justin Bieber uses high, edgy sounds mixed with falsetto flair. What about your favorite singers? And what about your own vocal artistry? Constantly take note of the tools that make singing personal and exciting to you. Keep honing your own unique vocal SIGNATURE and you may one day find yourself being asked for your signature!
Laryngitis. A true vocal killer. Just about everyone has experienced it at some point. But, do you know what it is? Laryngitis is the inflammation of the larynx and, thus, the vocal folds. It can cause hoarseness, sore throat, coughing, and pain when you swallow. It can also feel like it takes much more energy than usual to speak, let alone sing. Colds, flus, infections, and allergies can cause this swelling. However, Laryngitis can also be caused vocal abuse or very poor vocal technique. Talking or singing too loudly or harshly for long time periods can sometimes be the source. So, if you notice a DRASTIC change in your voice after an overly aggressive vocal session - give it a rest. If you suspect you have Laryngitis, check with your doctor to see whether it's caused by illness. The good news is that Laryngitis will definitely heal! Just be patient and conscientious if it comes your way!
Here's some GOOD news and some BAD news. First, the bad news. The bad news is that you will never be able to accurately hear your own voice. Even when you hear yourself back on a recording, it sounds different than what you hear in your head when you're singing live. There is GOOD news though. The good news is that your voice is meant to be shared! Your listeners get to experience your voice in a way that you never will. You get to FEEL it. We get to HEAR it. But, ultimately the relationship between the vocal giver (you) and the vocal receiver (us) will always be necessary for the uniqueness of your voice to be fully known. This is the magic, the mystery, and the miracle of singing. And this is indeed GOOD news!
When learning to Riff, it's easy to think that it's all about fast moving notes. Yet, there are actually many other nuanced changes that occur during Riffs. Changing between VOCAL REGISTERS during a Riff is an example of this. A great way to practice this difficult and subtle vocal skill is to try yodeling exercises! Move back and forth between Chest Voice and Falsetto while singing an "EE" vowel on a 1-6-1-6-1 interval. Master this exercise at a slow tempo and then increase the speed. Soon the yodel skill will become so natural for you that you can easily incorporate it into your Riffs. Being able to change registers while Riffing will add an new ear-catching dimension to your Riffs!